Aid to Egypt: Should the United States Build 10 World-Class Science High Schools There?

February 16, 2011
That’s what Tom Friedman recommends in his New York Times column today – that the U.S. divert $100 million of its $1.3 billion in military aid to finance science schools in Egypt.  Even Defense Secretary Gates would probably agree.  Meanwhile David Leonhardt of the same venerable newspaper also weighs in today on education in Egypt.  Egypt scores in the bottom ten of 48 countries on a standardized math test for eighth graders (the PISA no doubt – for more on how badly developing countries score read Lant Pritchett here).   Leonhardt quotes CGD senior fellow Michael Clemens on U.S. immigration policy too – that only one of every 146 Egyptians who entered a recent U.S. immigration lottery received a green card—and refers to Michael’s work with Lant Pritchett showing Egyptian high school graduates would multiply their income by eight times (!) if they could get in (controlling for selectivity and so on). Would a new class of super high schools make a difference in Egypt?  Only if the economic and political fundamentals  – property rights, rule of law, competitiveness driving wealth instead of rents, and democratic opening – get fixed.  It is those meta problems that explain Egypt’s low quality of schooling and its failure, revealed in high youth unemployment, to put education to work for greater and more broadly-shared prosperity up to now.


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